Meditating with the Buddha

Outside a building, just a little apart from the rest of the temple, I spied two pairs of empty shoes. From within the building came a throaty singing so familiar to this place, and the harsh beat of a steel drum. My curiosity was peaked, and so, cautiously, I slipped off my own shoes and stepped inside.

It was, of course, a small sub room in the temple grounds for meditation.  The man playing the drum I had seen before; he wasn’t bald and robed like so many of the monks around here, but he clearly put stock in this faith, for he was always finding himself  a few steps before me, deep in some cryptic ritual. The other person in the room was a woman, blonde and pale, a poster child for gonzo tourism. She dressed in almost-robes, just a little too fashionable to be authentic, and had around her neck a string of prayer beads. She had her eyes closed, her hands pressed together in prayer, and was on her knees in that most Christian of ways. Eventually her knees began to hurt and she swapped positions.

I watched them, and heard the singing, and smelt the distant scent of incense. I could do with a little peace of mind myself, even if I might look like the worst kind of tourist while at it. Quietly, carefully, I lowered myself down into one of the pillows resting on the floor, and with a deep, long breath, I did my absolute best to meditate.

Meditation is hard. Especially in a different country, struggling with loneliness and mental health. I found it difficult not to fall back into a chain reaction of bad thoughts. One would empower the next until I’d find myself holding onto that chanting old man by the collar, begging for enlightenment.

I squeezed my hands together, and listened to his chanting, his drumming, the faint, everlasting muttering of the crickets outside. I opened my eyes, just for a second, and acknowledging how perfectly simple this room was, with its pale colours, soft ground, thin, sliding doors. They wouldn’t keep us from interuptions. I had proven this myself. Instead they inspired a trust, that people would be respectful, even if they did interrupt.

Slowly, ever so slowly, my mind began to focus. My body, my breathing, my presence. The endless wittering dialogue in my head hushed. Every so often I would stray from the path. It was never too much effort to bring myself back to that place of calm, that room in the middle of tourist trap temple grounds, a room somehow perfect, for faith, and fakers, and the strange, soothing peace that we all crave so very much.

I soaked up the atmosphere and I was better for it. I left the temple with a smile, and with contentment.

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